Hebrew-Speaking Catholics Affirm Pius XII's Virtues
Say Only God Can Know if He Did Enough to Save Jews
The Hebrew-Speaking Catholic Vicariate in Israel (www.catholic.co.il) issued a statement today that lent its support to Benedict XVI's move Saturday to approve a decree that testifies to the heroic virtues of Pius XII, a gesture that puts the Pontiff one step away from beatification.
For Pius XII to be declared Blessed by the Church, a decree testifying to a miracle attributed to his intercession must be approved.
The note, signed by the community's vicar, Jesuit Father David Neuhaus, and priests of the vicariate, laments that the move has led to another "storm in the relations between Jews and Catholics."
Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, said in a statement over the weekend that "there are strong concerns about Pope Pius XII's political role during World War II which should not be ignored."
He urged the Vatican to open its archives that concern the wartime years of 1939-1945, and added that until that happens, a "beatification is inopportune and premature."
The statement from Israel's Hebrew-speaking Catholic community, however, notes Pius XII's many accomplishments, including his efforts to promote scientific Biblical research, which "brings together Jews and Christians and influences greatly the definition of the shared Jewish -- Christian Biblical heritage."
"The Pope, who served from 1939 to 1958, was active in many different fields and he left his mark on the Church in the 20th century," the statement affirms. "Catholics remember him and honor his memory in a Church context much wider than just the black years of the Second World War."
Regarding those who criticize how Pius XII steered the Church during World War II, the note says they "reject the defamation of Pius XII" and accusations of his "cowardice and even anti-Semitism and collaboration with the Nazi enemy. These accusations are absolutely without foundation.
"Likewise, we reject the interpretations that see any honoring of Pius XII as a minimizing of the importance of the Shoah or as a retreat from the breathtaking progress in the relations between Jews and Catholics in the past decades."
Having said that, the community notes that it does "understand the discomfort of many of our Jewish brothers and sisters who argue that the Pope 'did not do enough' in saving Jews in the hour of their sufferings during the Shoah."
"We understand the cry 'he did not do enough' as a cry of deep pain coming from the sense of betrayal among the Jewish people at the time of their trial," the statement explains. "The world indeed did not do enough as it is an undeniable fact that six million members of the Jewish people were murdered.
"Ultimately, there can be no 'enough' in the attempt to confront a tragedy of the dimensions of the Shoah!"
"Could the Pope have done more?" the note asks. "The question is both legitimate and understandable, however, perhaps there is no human answer to this question.
"Only God can know whether he indeed did everything that he could do."
Father Neuhaus and the other priests of the vicariate, however, acknowledge a large body of historical research that documents Pius XII's diplomatic efforts to end World War II, and his instructions to churches and monasteries to aid Jews fleeing persecution, even to the point of providing them with false documents and smuggling them out of Nazi-controlled areas.
"We continue to pray," the note concludes, "that both in the Church and in the Jewish people we will continue in searching together for the historical truth so that we can educate our children in mutual respect and brotherhood, and that we continue our efforts to collaborate for 'the mending of the world' (tikkun olam)."